I’ve never met him, but he strikes me as the kind of guy I’d love to have as my neighbor.
His name is Ed Anzalone. New York football fans know him as “Fireman Ed,” and he’s been enthusiastically leading chants at New York Jets games for years. With his distinctive green and white New York City fire helmet, and sitting on the shoulders of a friend, nobody does a better job at firing up a crowd than big Ed. He was once awarded a game ball after the Jets head coach credited him with making a difference in a key win against the New England Patriots. Win or lose, rain or shine, Fireman Ed was there.
But no longer.
Fireman Ed is hanging up his helmet – but reluctantly so.
The lackluster Jets have been struggling this season, but the lack of wins has nothing to do with his decision to retire from the role of “super fan.”
Instead, Ed Anzalone has grown weary of the mean-spirited behavior in the stands.
“It’s been about the nastiness,” he told a reporter. “I just think society in general — you’re out in your car there’s no respect at all. I don’t want to put up with that from people taking it out on me anymore.”
Writing in a guest column, Fireman Ed expounded on his decision:
I decided to leave Thursday because the confrontations with other Jets fans have become more common, even though most Jets fans are fantastic.
This is an indication of how society has lost and is continuing to lose respect for one another… Whether it’s in the stands, the bathroom or the parking lot, these confrontations are happening on a consistent basis. Although I can “hold my own,” I do not want to lose my temper and make a stupid mistake. I have a responsibility to the families and kids that enjoy the game and Fireman Ed.
One of the reasons I was led to write my latest book, ReFocus, was because I have been seeing what Mr. Anzalone is referring to – the unfortunate emergence of an increasingly crude and coarse culture. I didn’t have the dynamics of an upper deck crowd in an NFL football stadium in mind, of course, but culture is lived out in every venue.
What’s happening between fans at a professional game is a microcosm of what’s happening within the culture at large. As Christians, we have a responsibility to disagree when necessary without being disagreeable. We can discuss – but we should never demonize.
All of this is easier said than done, but we can and must do no less.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” wrote the Apostle Paul, and yes, even inside an NFL football stadium.